The Difference Between SSRS vs Power BI

The debate over whether a company needs to track big data has been over, and for a long time. But what software is the best choice for your needs? We could spend countless hours going over the many choices, but here is a direct comparison of SSRS vs Power BI.

In order for businesses to stay competitive they need to be able to seamlessly track large amounts of data – and also visualize it in a user friendly format.

But the true power lies in giving technical and non-technical employees the ability to harness the power of that information, in order to make data-driven decisions.

While there are a host of programs with these capabilities on the market, Microsoft has been a leader in the industry for decades – trailblazing the way with SSRS and Power BI, among others.

data visualization

What is Power BI

What was once just a set of add-ins for Excel back in 2010, Power BI has been rebranded to operate on its own accord.

Power Bi is a cloud-based analytics tool for businesses, that was introduced by Microsoft in 2014. At its core Power BI allows for a business to bring together large amounts of data, from various sources, into one platform (or dashboard). 

For example, let’s say a global business wanted to track data from various marketing campaigns including TV, radio, print and digital (search, display and video) – and to contextualize this based on individual local markets – Power BI can seamlessly aggregate all of the data sources for a birds-eye view of total campaign performance.

Where Does This Leave Excel?

The great thing about Power BI is that it doesn’t replace Excel, rather it enhances it.

Excel experts can use their already-existing skills to organize and import data models into Power BI to create interactive reports – without having to learn a new application or programming language.

And the real kicker? These interactive reports can be updated in real-time with API integration.

What is SSRS

SSRS stands for SQL Server Reporting Services, which is a server-based reporting tool released by Microsoft in 2004. It uses on-premise tools and software to create, launch and manage desktop and mobile reports.

SSRS is especially good at creating paginated reports where the user can add reporting objects like tables, charts, images and text, to a blank canvas. The business user can also export reports in a variety of file formats including Word, PDF, Excel, XML, CSV and MHTML.

SSRS can generate different types of reports, such as:

  • Parameterized reports
  • Linked reports
  • Snapshot reports
  • Cached reports
  • Ad hoc reports
  • Clickthrough reports
  • Drilldown reports
  • Drillthrough reports
  • Subreports

While there is some overlap between SSRS and Power BI with respect to capabilities, the best use case depends on a business’s particular needs.

Analyzing Data

Main Differences between Microsoft Power BI and SSRS 


Power BI – can function with cloud-based and server-based platforms

SSRS – limited to only server-based reports


Power BI – Monthly updates rolled out in response to strong user community – Microsoft has committed to addressing complaints and recommendations on a frequent, ongoing basis.

SSRS – Full system updates are rolled out every few years 

Data Types and Sources

Power BI – The ability to handle structured and unstructured data. Can connect and pull data from a variety of sources including SQL/MySQL Database, Azure, Oracle, Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery and many more (check out the full list here)

SSRS – Limited to semi-structured and structured data. Works only with server-based data such as Microsoft SQL Server, Azure SQL Database, Oracle and SharePoint (check out the full list here)


Power BI – Users can choose between Pro and Premium versions, starting as low as $9.99USD/per user a month to $4,995. They also offer a free version of the software with a 1GB data/per user capacity limit.

SSRS – While SSRS does have free options, most full-featured versions start at $931USD; with enterprise level options going as high as $14,256USD per core.

User Experience

Power BI – Leverages a robust graphical UI using drag and drop features. It is specifically designed to allow anyone to be an “analyst” with the ability to evaluate big data between departments. Both technical and non-technical users can learn to navigate the interface.

SSRS – Known to be a bit unintuitive when going beyond basic functions, like using container objects and grouping. Users report having difficulty with features such as adding summary vs detail rows and organization of data on the report 

Intended Purpose

Power BI – Their mission? Created for both the IT technical and business user to allow any employee in an organization the ability to make better data-based decisions through a beautiful and user-friendly analytics tool – especially when it comes to creating interactive visuals for data exploration.

SSRS – IT departments within a company have been the main operators of SSRS software – this is due in part to the fact that SSRS uses coding. SSRS shines when it comes to printing and/or exporting data, or when you know exactly what you want the end result to look like.

Power BI vs SSRS

Reporting and Permissions

Power BI – Users can create reports and access them through desktop, web services and mobile devices. 

Files can be shared securely using OAuth 2.0 protocol using the following elements: Login UI, Authorization Code, Authorization Token and Refresh Token. The software also uses row-level security to restrict access within dashboards, datasets, tiles and reports.

SSRS – Reports can be accessed through web and desktop versions – and users that have SSRS 2016 installed on their servers have mobile access.

Permissions depend on access control – whether through Native or SharePoint mode:

  • Native – based on Windows Authentication; user can change settings to respond to different permission requests. Authorization is based on roles that are assigned and consists of a set of permission levels granted to that individual (For example person can add report, view report, update and delete report)
  • SharePoint – based on SharePoint site that requires security token or trusted user name. Items in SharePoint library are accessible to users and groups with authorization access.


BI and SSRS is not a battle of which one is better – rather it depends on what the users particular needs are. When it comes to creating paginated reports for converting, sharing and printing reports SSRS is the clear winner. 

However, Power BI is slowly becoming the optimal choice, being an all-in-one service capable of handling a variety of reporting needs.

Additionally Power BI is well positioned to be the go-to business intelligence choice of the future, with its user-friendly platform and monthly updates – blind spots in big data are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Consulting as a Solution to Big Data

Despite best efforts to create powerful data analysis tools that are easy to use, many businesses still struggle with what software to choose and how best to use it. These businesses may benefit from consulting services that can help make sense of big data.

The right Power BI consulting company can show you what data to focus on in order to drill down on key business drivers – instead of chasing red herrings.

Still Not Sure What BI Tool Is Right For You?